Only two or three days passed before Mrs. Lloyd returned this visit. Irene found her more interesting than ever. She had seen a great deal of society, and had met, according to her own story, with most of the distinguished men and women of the country, about whom she talked in a very agreeable manner. She described their personal appearance, habits, peculiarities and manners, and related pleasant anecdotes about them. On authors and books she was entirely at home.
But there was an undercurrent of feeling in all she said that a wiser and more experienced woman than Irene would have noted. It was not a feeling of admiration for moral, but for intellectual, beauty. She could dissect a character with wonderful skill, but always passed the quality of goodness as not taken into account. In her view this quality did not seem to be a positive element.
When Mrs. Lloyd went away, she left the mind of Irene stimulated, restless and fluttering with vague fancies. She felt envious of her new friend’s accomplishments, and ambitious to move in as wide a sphere as she had compassed. The visit was returned at an early period, and, as before, Mrs. Emerson met Mrs. Lloyd in the public parlor of her boarding-house. The same gentleman whose manner had a little annoyed her was present, and she noticed several times, on glancing toward him, that his eyes were fixed upon her, and with an expression that she did not understand.
After this, the two ladies met every day or two, and sometimes walked Broadway together. The only information that Mrs. Emerson had in regard to her attractive friend she received from Mrs. Talbot. According to her statement, she was a widow whose married life had not been a happy one. The husband, like most husbands, was an overbearing tyrant, and the wife, having a spirit of her own, resisted his authority. Trouble was the consequence, and Mrs. Talbot thought, though she was not certain, that a separation took place before Mr. Lloyd’s death. She had a moderate income, which came from her husband’s estate, on which she lived in a kind of idle independence. So she had plenty of time to read, visit and enjoy herself in the ways her fancy or inclination might prompt.
WEARY OF CONSTRAINT.
TIME moved on, and Mrs. Emerson’s intimate city friends were those to whom she had been introduced, directly or indirectly, through Mrs. Talbot. Of these, the one who had most influence over her was Mrs. Lloyd, and that influence was not of the right kind. Singularly enough, it so happened that Mr. Emerson never let this lady at his house, though she spent hours there every week; and, more singular still, Irene had never spoken about her to her husband. She had often been on the point of doing so, but an impression that Hartley would take up an unreasonable prejudice against her kept the name of this friend back from her lips.